Discussing the potential of cars like the Mercedes-Benz S-class, the BMW 7-series and the Audi A8 is no easy task, but the new Jaguar XJ, with impressive character and appeal, can take on all of these giants.
Unlike the long wheelbase versions of its German rivals, the XJ's bonnet and swooping roofline make it look like it was designed to look stretched in the first place. There's a nice cockpit-like feel inside the car. Thumb the starter button and the gear selector rises out of the centre console as the 3.0-litre twin-turbo diesel engine hums to life.
Leather and well-finished wood adorn the interiors and a new digital dashboard display replaces the conventional analogue dials. The old-school air-conditioning vents look good and function brilliantly.
The rear is fantastic too, which is important in India. The almost 3.2-metre-long wheelbase ensures there is plenty of legroom and more headroom than the swooping roof-line suggests; the roofline is scooped out for this.The XJ uses aluminum for its body panels and chassis, which is something, in this class, only Audi's A8 shares. Unencumbered by the A8's four-wheel-drive system, however, the rear-wheel-drive XJ is one of the lightest cars in this class. Even the long-wheelbase version, at 1,813 kgs, weighs just 13 kgs more than the XF! The light weight means the 271 bhp and 61.18 kgms of torque can take the XJ from 0 to 100 kph in just 8.5 seconds. The throttle response is accurate and the six-speed auto box is intuitive. In the Sport mode, the gearbox holds gears for longer and the shifts are quicker. Flicking the steering wheel-mounted paddles activates a manual mode, which, if the car is set to Dynamic mode, holds gears to the limiter.
The power train is so refined that from the inside, the engine noise is suppressed. Jaguar engineers developed both the short and long wheelbase versions alongside each other with the chassis development of the LWB version even taking precedence at times. This shows in how the 5.2-metre-long saloon changes direction with the agility and precision.
Switch the adjustable dampers to their softer setting and you'll find a car that rides with aplomb over most surfaces. It doesn't have the same authority over bad sections as a Merc S-class, but again, the S doesn't have the XJ's low-profile 245/45-R19 tyres. The long wheelbase and ground-hugging stance mean you have to be extra careful over speedbreakers. There's also a rather narrow boot aperture that will make loading bigger pieces of luggage a bit of a task.